Less than a year after settling a lawsuit with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, ComicMix is launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication of The Zaks and Other Lost Stories by Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, to be released in July. The stories, which are in the public domain and available digitally on the Seussville website, include the titular story The Zaks, and The Sneetches, among others. ComicMix plans to release the titles of the other stories in the compilation as successive crowdfunding goals are met.

Between 1950 and 1956, Geisel published 23 stories in Redbook, including the seven that will be published in this compilation. The Zaks centers on two creatures who come to an impasse with each other and are unable to resolve their differences because of their entrenched positions. The Sneetches explores themes of intolerance and discrimination. Geisel later took elements of some of the stories and expanded upon them in future books, such as the 1961 publication The Sneetches and Other Stories. The ComicMix edition of the stories was created with high-quality scans from the original Redbook stories, tracked down from collectors of the magazine. Redbook reverted the copyright to these stories to Geisel, but the copyright was not renewed, so the versions that appeared in the magazines are now in public domain.

Publication of The Zaks follows a five-year-long legal dispute between ComicMix—a website for comics news and information that also offers professional publishing services—and Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the holding company for rights associated with Geisel’s work. In September 2016, ComicMix launched a Kickstarter to raise funds for Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go! written by David Gerrold (pen name of David Jerrold Friedman) and illustrated by Ty Templeton. A Seuss-Star Trek mash-up, the book featured Star Trek-uniform clad characters seen in Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (“Go!”), How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, and The Sneetches and Other Stories (“Sneetches”) along with text in rhyming tetrameter, Dr. Seuss’s signature style.

The Kickstarter campaign raised around $30,000 before it was frozen and the funds were blocked in response to a takedown notice from Dr. Seuss Enterprises. The notice was issued at the same time that ComicMix received a cease-and-desist letter from the company. Dr. Seuss Enterprises then filed a suit against Gerrold (a sci-fi author and screenplay writer who penned two episodes of the original Star Trek series), Templeton, and ComixMix editor and v-p Glenn Hauman for copyright and trademark infringement and unfair competition.

Attorneys for the defendants argued that the new work was a parody and met the legal definition of a transformative work; that is, the material builds upon and alters an original work to a substantial degree and is used for a different purpose. They also contended that it met the four standards used to determine fair use, and, as such, should be considered under protections that the law grants to satirists, aggregators, and remixers. In a series of motions in 2017, a court found that the book was not a parody, but a “literary and pictorial mash-up,” but that it was “no doubt transformative.” In 2018, a judge in the Southern District Court of California found that Boldly did not violate trademark law.

Attorneys for Dr. Seuss Enterprises appealed, and in 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overruled a lower court decision that had dismissed the fair use complaint and handed them a favorable ruling, finding that the details of new work were too similar to the original and that Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go! was neither transformative nor a parody. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case. The suit was considered important by legal experts because of its implications for creators involved in mash-ups and parodies. One of the thornier issues was the questions of whether or not a thoughtfully created homage crosses the line of infringement upon the original work. In an interview with Ars Technica, Templeton said he went to great lengths to ensure that his illustrations were an obvious tribute to Seuss’s work. Parody, by some definitions, must be critical of the original. Seuss parodies in other art forms have been granted protection. For example, Who’s Holiday by Matthew Lombardo, a 2017 play featuring a grown-up Cindy Lou Who, was legally deemed a parody by a federal judge in a suit against the author by Dr. Seuss Enterprises. Also significant was the application of the law to works that appear in different formats or in different collections.

In October 2021, the companies settled the suit, with ComicMix agreeing that Boldly infringed on copyright and Seuss agreeing to drop any claims for damages and attorney fees. Hauman said that Templeton was in treatment for late-stage colorectal cancer at the time and the case had taken too much of a toll on all involved to pursue the matter further. Templeton is still undergoing treatment.

The publication of The Zaks is a byproduct of the suit. In discovery for the case, attorneys for Gerrold and ComicMix found that some of the Seuss stories published in Redbook were in the public domain. It’s also an effort to recoup some of the financial losses that resulted from the suit and its settlement. ComicMix called the print reissue of the stories “a cause for celebration among Seuss fans,” noting that it will also be of interest to “legal scholars and public domain enthusiasts.” The release of the book is timed to coincide with Comic-Con International in San Diego in July.

The publication of The Zaks won’t be the first time “lost” Seuss stories have been published. In 2011, Random House released The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories, followed by Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories, both collections based on the Redbook stories and copyrighted to Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

ComicMix issued an official comment about the publication, stating, “This book is not associated with, nor approved by, nor even particularly liked by Dr. Seuss Enterprises L.P., a California limited partnership, which owns some of the copyrights of the works of Theodor Seuss Geisel, the author and illustrator who created many works under the pseudonym ‘Dr. Seuss.’ ” Hauman, who preferred to comment about the upcoming book in Seuss-like rhyme, had this to say:

“We found Dr. Seuss stories, once thought to be lost,
that we’re bringing to you at a reasonable cost.
Some tales are familiar, though not quite this way,
but all fine examples of Seuss’s wordplay!
We spruced them all up, and now are good times
to rediscover his artwork and rhymes.
We filled up a book to put on your shelf
So that you can at last read them for yourself!” OY

Dr. Seuss Enterprises declined to comment on the story.

The Zaks and Other Lost Stories by Theodor Seuss Geisel a.k.a. Dr. Seuss. ComicMix, July 26 $29.99 ISBN 978-1-939888-95-2; $19.99 978-1-939888-96-9